Thursday, October 6, 2011

Practices Change Principles Never Do.

In the many years I have been in sales I have often heard that "those old sales techniques don't work anymore with today's buyers." I heard that in the 70s, I heard it in the 80's, the 90's, the new Millennium, and today. It reminds me of the comments that "In our area," "In our market," that doesn't work. These are the two most consistent things I have heard for the last thirty five years. My answer has been and is, Practices Change Principle Never Do.

The principles of people skills stay fast no matter the practices that technology and social mores dictate. In my own career I have seen the beginning of the use of car phones, voice mail, faxes, pagers, email, text, instant messaging, and the explosion of social media. Each of these new "conveniences" seem to add hours to my day as I practice the principle of communicating with clients in their favorite method.

The argument that people have changed always makes me think of the story of Moses. This story will show you that people haven't fundamentally changed in centuries, it matters not where they were born.

Moses was out watching his flock when he saw a fire on the hillside. Being a good steward of his flock he had to go check it out before it spread and burned up his pasture. When he got there it was a single bush that was burning. He stayed to see if it would burn out when it consumed the bush of if it started to spread and he would need to put it out. It kept burning for the longest time, it didn't consume the bush, and it didn't spread, after a while he started wondering what kind of deal was this anyway. Keep in mind Moses was a busy guy, he had the flock of sheep and goats, he was married, had kids, had a father in law he was working for, he didn't have time to sit and watch a bush burn forever. Finally he asked "God is that you?" God answered "Yes, thanks for coming Moses, I had something I wanted to talk to you about so I used this bush to get your attention." (excuse the paraphrasing)

Moses, asked God, "Haven't you heard the cries of the Israelites, haven't you seen their suffering enslaved to the Egyptians?" "Why don't you do something about it God?" God answered, "I am doing something about it, I am sending you." That is when Moses panicked and starting making excuses. "But God, I can't do it, I am so busy right now, I have my father in law busting my backside taking care of the flocks, my wife has a Honey Do list that never ends. The kids are on traveling teams, call me again after the holidays and we can see if things lighten up. Just burn another bush or something then we can talk." God paid no attention to his "I'm Busy" excuse and kept closing on Moses going to Egypt and leading his people out of bondage. So Moses came up with his next excuse, "But God, I don't have any credibility there, I left there in the middle of the night to avoid being charged with murder, you need someone who has solid contacts there." God's answer to Moses, "Don't worry about your credibility, use mine, just say 'God Sent Me!" Finally Moses tried his final excuse, "God, if you think I can get up in front of people and give speeches you are out of your mind." Actually the scripture said, Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." God finally got frustrated and told him to just take your brother Aaron so he can talk for you.

You can see that Moses wasn't the same as Charleston Heston played him, he was a man who had fears, had excuses, had a low self-image, yet God used him to change the world. Did you recognize those excuses? If you tried to recruit someone to do a big project today you would hear, "I don't have time," "I don't know the right people," and "I am not comfortable speaking to groups." People haven't changed, not at a real personal level.

When I was 19 years old I was at a convention where Zig Ziglar was speaking. He changed my life that day with a comment that shook me to my core. Zig said that "if you are an outstanding salesperson you can manipulate people into almost anything." I was thinking darn right, that is how I got through school. Then he hit me between the eyes with, "If you are very good at sales you should never ever do that."
He then explained the difference between manipulation and motivation. They may actually involve the exact same set of people skills, but the difference is in your heart. If you are moving people to a decision for your own best interest and not theirs, that is manipulation. If however, you are moving people to a decision for their best interest that is motivation. Zig's signature saying of "If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want," is the natural outcropping of that.

The people skills and sales training I gained from reading Frank Bettger who wrote his book in the 1920s, or Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, and more of the greats who shoulders and industry has stood for decades are just as relevant today as at any time. The principles they taught have never changed, in fact the best sales training book ever written was the book of Proverbs. I challenge anyone to read a chapter of Proverbs every day for a year, there are 31 chapters so you read them almost every month. I promise you it will change your business and your life. The basic principles are found in those, it is the practices we have to adjust to. The key is learning out to change practices without losing the core principles passed down through the ages.